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Emotionally, I had a brutal winter. It was the worst one in a long time. I’m not sure if my vitamin D was low, my triggers were high or my expectations were flattened by life circumstances, but in the past twelve months I’ve written 22 poems. For comparison, I wrote 3 poems in the previous twelve months. (and one was a funny little ditty about drug-store, snore-preventing nose strips) Writing is my healing process, my coping mechanism, my way to figure things out— and once poetry is in print, it is as though my heart is on a page. All the inner workings of my brain and the countless hours of being ‘all up in my head’, find a peaceful settledness.

Truly, I think it’s grief. Pre-grief, post-grief, loss, looming official empty nest, tested and testy relationships (that I did not pass with flying colors), triggered and terrible memories (that made all the color leave my face) and the grief of change, war, rejection, remorse, and regret.

In one particularly tender evening of tears, my husband said he had never seen that emotion on me. He had never heard tears like those tears. He had never seen me like that. In all our years, he saw and heard new layers to my story that were painful to him, too. He heard weeping and wailing of regret, the grief of regret.

If there is one person I treasure in my entire story of intimate partner violence that happened at age 19 at the hands of (Un)incredible Hulk, it is my Secret Keeper. She has been difficult to write about on the blog. I have struggled to find words. More, I miss her and writing about her part in my story of abuse feels sad and incomplete.

Our Dads are brothers. Secret Keeper is my first cousin and we are exactly 21 weeks apart in age. I, the older. She, the younger. She was a ‘military kid’ born across the ocean in the land of The Netherlands. I was a ‘ministry kid’ born in the south, reared in the north.

We first met when we were five years old at our nine-year-old cousin’s funeral viewing. It’s an early memory of mine to be in a room crowded with flowers, more than I’ve ever seen in one place; everyone numbly sad and yet anticipatingly looking for the girl my age with short blonde curls. I, the stick straight brunette.

We were back to Grandma’s house for the actual funeral. My tiny Grandma, affectionately nicknamed ‘Ducky’ by my Granddaddy, found the funeral too much to bear and we were at the house with her, my oldest cousin, their packs of cigarettes, a pair of yappy poodle dogs and of all things, musical toys. Grandma and Cousin were in the kitchen smoking and likely drinking Coke from Scooby Doo glasses. Secret Keeper and I were left alone to ‘play’ with toys you could count on one hand, in the dining room.

We had one job. Be quiet. ‘Cause Grandma was sad and nervous, rightfully so as she was facing a deep, deep grief. I was the wide-eyed rule follower. But, Secret Keeper played the musical instrument! It was loud! We got yelled at from the next room. And Secret Keeper declared, ‘Yeah, Sadie! Be quiet!’ I was mortified. Speechless. She blamed me for her indiscretion and it’s the first secret I had the privilege of keeping for her!

We met each other again in Junior High. We were strangers, but became fast friends staying up all night talking in our Grandparents’ basement, sleeping til noon, skateboarding down the steep driveway, shopping the outlet malls, swimming at the pool across the street from her house and eating her mom’s famous icebox chocolate pie. She introduced me to Dairy Queen and explained her parents’ cigarettes of choice, Lucky Strikes. I was fully naive to cigarettes. She was the first person I told heart secrets to. She was the first person to read my poetry, and to share with me, hers. She was the first person I was free to be me. And she liked me. She loved me. We became pen pals and birthday card & birthday gift traders. The most common thing we always traded was bookmarks. She never forgot my birthday.

One day, we even became blood sisters. I had a little frog porcelain frame that I was trying to shove a picture of us into. It broke and I cut my thumb enough for a couple stitches. Secret Keeper got excited! She had seen a show where you mixed your blood so you could become blood sisters! She cut herself with the same sharp edge of the broken frame. We pledged our loyalty and blood sisterhood that day. I have the scar to prove it. I have her face etched in my memory to recall the only sorority oath I ever took. It still tickles me.

Time went on. I followed her to college. We embraced every bit of freshman year. We burped the ABC’s on cassette recording. We played pranks and slept in class. We made mutual best friends (you know who you are) and we shared so many laughs. Making faces upside down, singing in the dark with flashlights, and uproariously laughing when I mispronounced, ‘No way, Jose’, she had a two-dimpled broad smile and the same curly hair as when we met as five year olds.

We were college roommates, first cousins, best friends, prayer warriors and then, she became a player in my story. My ugly story. The one I’m still trying to find my voice. And heal from. My story of regret. I can’t even bring myself to tell you what she went through in those months watching me ruin my life, bringing myself harm, putting myself in harm’s way and dragging her into being my protector, my secret keeper, my confidant, my tear-catcher, my comic relief—my dearest most loyal friend.

She saw a side of me no one has ever seen or will ever know. No matter how many tears I have wept since, she saw the raw unfiltered {really dramatic} first-reel kind. She watched me deconstruct from being a 4.0 student to a college dropout. She woke when I stumbled in after curfew, battered. She drove me to safety. She haggled the meddlesome curiosity seekers of a small campus wondering where I went and why. She listened on the other end of the phone for literal hours. She bore the brunt of my poor choices with a dignity and generosity few are willing to bear.

Me, I was a bad friend. People getting beat and barely surviving often are. And I regret it so often and so much. My healing was so new that when she died at age 37 of cancer, so much had gone unsaid. And I still felt like a bad friend. I didn’t have the time to make up the difference to someone I owed so much yet had paid back so little. And did I mention, I regret that?! The grief of regret.

She was the wind beneath my wings. She was everything I wished I could be. I was a mess.

The first time I wished to die she stayed up all night watching me sleep so I wouldn’t self- harm. Toward the end of her life, wrestling with cancer, she called me and whispered the words, ‘I’m drowning’. It was the most privileged trip I could have ever taken. I immediately went to visit her and be with her. We sat in silence more often than not sipping diet Coke and making small talk about anything but her illness. I knew what drowning feels like and no one should be alone in the deep waters. You should always move toward the person who has the courage to verbalize they are drowning.

Secret Keeper bought me my first camera. She loved Snoopy and Paddington Bear and her scruffy childhood stuffed animal. She loved Amy Grant and one of the best times I ever had with her was a late '80s Amy Grant/MWS concert. She was my maid of honor at my wedding. She is the person who was with me for my first baby. She is the first person who knew I was pregnant with my fifth baby. She is the first person who I sat with at her bedside as she died.

And she never forgot my birthday.

The last truly coherent time I got to talk with Secret Keeper was 11 days before she passed, and 2 days after my birthday, as I was sitting in the Houston Airport on my flip phone. She called just to wish me a happy birthday. She made me laugh, but I could hear her physical pain when her speech jumbled. She had once told me God had hurt her feelings by not healing her. But now, she was giving me the last bookmark memory of her, a birthday phone call. She was telling me again by her thoughtful memory of me that she loved me. The person who knew me best but at my very worst, loved me. I will forever love the Houston airport for that memory.

Time is short.

Secret Keeper died before I could tell her more. Or listen better. She left her years of journals, full of bookmarked thoughts and emotions, to her father for disposal. No one got to read her writings or hold her secrets after she was gone.

She died before I entered a season of meaningful healing, before I reported, before I wrote this blog; before she married. She died before I could tell her that some times God hurts my feelings, too, when He doesn’t answer my prayers for healing from this cancer of trauma and regret, painful memories and the depression and anxiety that often accompanies life-altering experiences.

She died before she saw my girls grow up, the ones that remind me of her —and before the big anniversaries where my maid of honor tells her version of my wedding day. She would have remembered stories I don't. She would have gifted me the details I forget.

Secret Keeper did speak shortly before she fell asleep in the Lord on a June afternoon in Pennsylvania. We were holding her hand and telling her how profoundly she made a difference in countless lives here on this earth. Almost demandingly, her voice rose with every ounce of her strength and she said, ‘How?! Tell me how. Tell me who.‘ I was startled, surprised, and baffled, stumbling for my words. To me, it was the most obvious of answers. To her, she was asking us to rehearse her legacy one last time.

Dear friend, maid of honor, roommate, cousin, secret keeper, auntie to my girls, friend to my husband, missionary, Christ-follower, counselor, birthday rememberer, you can bookmark this Christy Lynn— you absolutely saved me.

You made all the difference in the world to me.

I could have never made it without you.

The grief of regret haunts me. I shared that with our mutual best friend recently; the hand Secret Keeper held as she traveled to glory. The same friend who is so happy for people when they get to meet Jesus for the first time in heaven. And she told me to ‘give it up‘.

So, this is my story of healing. This is my attempt at giving it up. This is the layer of facing my hurtful imperfections as a friend and flawed human at Secret Keeper’s expense. This is where I admit I was a bad friend in all my youth and immaturity and convoluted pain and if I could go back, I would. This is where my heart bleeds on the paper and settles the score of my angst; my deep grief.

This is a time to pause and remember this beautiful woman and our friendship, without regret. This is a time to remind myself that her gestures of knowing me and loving me, and being a part of God’s rescue team for me, was one of the differences she made for eternity. Her legacy was far more than me but I'm so very grateful it included me.

This is me remembering my birth day on her behalf, a new birth of healing.

This is a bookmark in my story.

While I may grieve her loss until I meet her on that Beautiful Shore, it will be without regret.

Lord willing.

My dear friend loved sunsets

This following poem kicked off the 'tender night of tears'. As well, I’ve wept the entire time writing this post. Some inspiration was derived from the movie, Beaches and it’s signature song, Wind Beneath My Wings. The beginning stanzas are not about Secret Keeper but shortly through, the poem shifted to reflect sentiments directed toward her and our relationship. Our lives ended up taking very different paths the last 15 years of our friendship and some of the entire poem reflects that. In a very real sense, we were opposites. In another sense, we were blood sisters.

You Always Were

You were meant for the stage

I was meant for the back

You were meant for more

I was meant for less

You were meant to dream dreams

I was meant to shoulder nightmares

You were meant to be enough

And I was not

You were meant to be tiny

I was meant to be big

You were meant to stand tall

I was meant to be short

You were meant to be right

I was meant to write left

You were meant to be enough

And I was not

You were meant for greatness

I was meant for the mundane

You were meant for thrones

I was meant to clean them

You were meant to travel

I was meant to stay home

You were meant to be enough

And I was not

You were meant for money

I was meant for free

You were meant for glory

I was meant for shame

You were meant for all the things

I was meant for nothing

You were meant to be enough

And I was not

You were meant for quiet

I was meant for loud

You were the wind beneath my wings

I was the storm cloud

You were meant to be courageous

I was meant to be fearful

You were meant to be enough

And I was not

You were meant to grow old

But you didn’t

Cause only the good die young

I was meant to die young

But I didn’t

Cause only the bad have nine lives

You were meant to be enough

And I was not.

You were meant to raise the rafters

In heavenly praise

I was meant to count my calories

All of my days

You were meant to be among the great witnesses

I was meant to wrestle with tangle and hindrance

You were meant to take your last breath

I was meant to struggle to breathe

You were meant to be enough

And I was not

Oh how the opposites attract

Oh how the relationships form

Oh how the glass shards turn into blood

Oh how the cut turns into blood sisters

Oh how the blood sister left me for another life

Another world

Another friend

And I was not enough

No time difference

No long distance

No similar mission

Could bring her back

To the time that she bore my burdens

Soothed my scars

Loyally listened

Pledged her prayers

Friended my fears

And told me I was more than enough

I’ve never been enough without you

You made me better than I was

Saw my deepest, darkest hell

And held me with your silence

Stood beside me as my witness

Watched my littles brought to life

And I could never outlive or outgive you

Not even if I tried

So at your bedside, dying

When you asked the difference you made

Oh dear one, you saved me

Like I’ve never been saved

You saw the realest me in the dark

And loved me more than I deserved

And you were a better woman than I

You always were

Because you were meant to be enough

And I was not.


7:10 pm

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